Orrin Hatch (R-UT) worries that repealing the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy which has been in place since the Clinton presidency will result in gay rights groups wanting “special rights.”
“Special Rights.” We hear this term a lot. For example, with regards to the issue of same-sex marriage. “That’s special rights,” we’re told. The argument has actually been advanced that since heterosexuals can’t marry people of the same sex that for homosexuals to demand that right is “special rights.” They say, “Well I can’t do it. Why should he be able to?” Somehow, in the theater of the absurd that is the bigoted mind, the fact that everybody can legally marry a person of the opposite sex makes the world of matrimony a level playing field.
The term special right is not new and it was not originally the battle cry of the Right-wing. It was libertarians who first began using it to refer to laws giving rights to groups that other groups don’t have.
Like being able to marry a person of the same sex.
Special rights are prohibited by the Constitution, which says everyone must be treated equally (Constitution of the United States: Article 1, Section 9).
But how is everyone equal if some people are allowed to get married, and some are not? How is everyone equal if some people can join the military (and openly express their sexuality) and some cannot? How is everyone equal if some people have more rights than others?
Obviously, they’re not.
The whole “special rights” issue as expressed by the religious conservatives in this country is hypocritical. Because what the religious conservatives have, and what they wish to maintain for themselves, is a privileged position sustained by the principle of special rights.
Granting what in actuality amounts to equal rights for others -a leveling of the playing field – erodes their position of privilege.
They believe homosexuality is evil, that it is a lifestyle choice, a deliberate turning away from God. Therefore – whether the rest of us agree with them or not – we must abide by their understanding of the situation. Gays must not be allowed to engage in what they falsely claim to be the religious institution of marriage; they must not be allowed to openly flaunt their opposition to God by being publicly gay.
In an instant, all other God-choices are negated. All that matters is what they think their god wants. That anyone might believe in other gods or in no gods at all is irrelevant. Their position is privileged.
Granting everybody the same rights – to serve in the military, to get married, to have the same rights before the law – these are not “special rights” but the very basic rights guaranteed to every individual in the United States – by law.
Historically, minorities – of all types – have not been well protected by the Constitution. Sure, it’s all there in black and white on paper, but in practice efforts to secure these rights have either not existed at all or have fallen short of the ideal. Blacks were denied their rights – they were slaves and that’s all they were good for. When a bloody Civil War determined that they had the same rights as everybody else, they were still treated as second-class citizens until Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movement of the 60’s – a full century after that Civil War – and it can rightly be argued that that imbalance still exists.
Another example is women’s rights. Women did not have the right to vote – universal suffrage – until progressive president Woodrow Wilson forced passage of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920, an amendment that should, in theory, not have been necessary.
But the religious conservative position was that blacks were not equal. The Bible defended the institution of slavery. The Bible was used to deprive people of rights they were guaranteed to possess by the Constitution. The Bible was used to deprive women of equal rights – women should be barefoot, pregnant, stay in the kitchen and not speak unless spoken to and they should certainly not be paid proportionate to men!
From any reasonable standpoint, the only case of special rights that is readily apparent is that of the WASP – the White Anglo-Saxon Protestant: White male Christians (Palin’s “real” Americans). And equal rights for all – in fact and not on paper only – will remove that last bastion of privilege enjoyed by these bigots.
The cry “special rights for homosexuals” is as evocative and powerful as it is false. It is an appeal to fear based on a self-serving twisting of logic and fact, and is no different than the attempts to deprive other minority groups of their rights.
There is no exception clause in the Declaration of Independence or in the Constitution.
They do not say “except for blacks.” They do not say, “except for women.” They do not say, “except for Christians.” And they do not say, “except for gays and lesbians.”
The essence of America has always been inclusion – not exclusion. E Pluribus Unum: Out of many, one.
Either everybody is equal or they are not. But if they are not, then we had best pass a Constitutional Amendment saying the Constitution is no longer valid, and that’s an absurd position, isn’t it?
And in answer to John Boehner (R-OH) the House G.O.P. leader, who asked: “In the middle of two wars and in the middle of this giant security threat, why would we want to get into this debate?” I would say simply this:
“Because virtue is never inconvenient.”
That was essentially Admiral Mullen’s answer, and it should serve equally well for all of us, who stand up for the principle espoused in our founding document:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”